Clinicians and Digital Health Leaders Say Driving Interoperability Forward is a High Priority for Canada

By Waldo Beauséjour and Sukirtha Tharmalingam

Despite huge progress in digital health in Canada over the past 20 years, issues with the exchange of patient health information persist, especially during transitions of care.

Clinicians and Digital Health Leaders Say Driving Interoperability Forward is a High Priority for Canada

Gaps in their information can delay care for patients, result in adverse drug events, or lead to hospital readmissions and longer wait lists. These gaps also take up precious time and contribute to burnout for clinicians. And health systems are burdened as a result of poor information exchange, duplication of tests, unnecessary appointments and hospitalizations, and other inefficiencies.

Infoway and our partners know it’s vitally important to improve interoperability—the ability of different IT systems with different infrastructures to share data seamlessly across the care continuum. This “connected care” is essential to the delivery of safe, effective health care and will result in better health outcomes for Canadians.

Before embarking on plans with our jurisdictional, private sector and health care partners, we wanted to make sure we had a detailed and updated understanding of the current state, so we recently undertook a Canadian Interoperability Landscape Study that relied on three data sources:

  • A survey of 818 clinicians that included general practitioners, specialists, nurses and allied health professionals;
  • Interviews with 77 digital health leaders, including clinicians, administrators, government stakeholders and vendors; and
  • An information scan to gain insights from international evidence and leading examples.

The clinicians’ survey found a high level of support for greater interoperability: 92 per cent said having more complete, timely and accurate information at their disposal would enable safer patient care; 88 per cent said it would improve their ability to collaborate and coordinate care with providers outside their practice; and 85 per cent said it would increase their productivity.

The digital health leaders also overwhelmingly told us interoperability is a high priority, and they agreed that the current state is far from ideal. They were confident that we will be able to advance interoperability by working together, but they said it will take time and funding because the challenges are significant and complex. Most agreed that it is up to governments—federal and provincial/territorial—to provide the leadership to overcome these challenges and drive interoperability forward because governments set policy and make investments, two key drivers that are beyond the capabilities of other stakeholders.

These valuable insights will help Infoway and our partners move forward, together, to overcome these challenges so patients, clinicians and our health system can realize the benefits of better interoperability and more connected care.

We invite you to read these documents from our Canadian Interoperability Landscape Study:

For a deeper dive into the Canadian Interoperability Landscape Study, join us at the Digital Health Week #HCLDR tweet chat on Nov. 15 from 8:30-9:30 p.m. ET. Our colleague, Simon Hagens will be tweeting from the @Infoway account, and @WaldoBEA will also be joining the chat to discuss the following questions:

  1. What are the negative impacts on patients, clinicians and health care staff when there is no coordination of care and a lack of collaboration?
  2. How would access to the entirety of a patient's health information improve the timeliness and quality of care received?
  3. What are the barriers to a more connected health care system, and how might these be addressed?
  4. Ultimately, who should be the champion for a more connected health system and why? Patients? Government? Health care organizations?

We’ll also be talking about the Canadian Interoperability Landscape Study at the Infoway Partnership Conference in Montreal from Nov. 15-16. Learn more and register here.

Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.

About the authors
Waldo Beauséjour

Waldo Beauséjour

Waldo Beauséjour holds a master’s degree in Applied Economics. He currently serves as Senior Analyst, Performance Analytics at Canada Health Infoway. He has experience in applied social research and quantitative research methods for over 10 years. He has led and contributed to several quantitative surveys, research and impact evaluations aiming at investigating the impact of government-led or funded interventions on health outcomes.

Sukirtha Tharmalingam

Sukirtha Tharmalingam

Sukirtha Tharmalingam is Senior Manager of Evaluation Methods at Canada Health Infoway where she works with diverse stakeholders and partners to evaluate the impact of digital health investments.